By: Carlo Guidowendo, SCCB Italy Jan. 7, 2015
|"The Garden of Earthly Delights" by Hieronymus Bosch, |
to appear on the cover of the Paulist Press edition of the encyclical.
Vatican City - It turns out that Pope Francis is not the first pope to have thought about using the keys to the gates of heaven on a mundane cause.
A newly discovered letter from the famous 5th century pope, Leo the Great, reveals that popes have always been concerned about the environment. "When he wasn't crushing Arians, and risking his life by standing up boldly against over-reaching emperors and Germanic invaders, he was thinking about Mother Earth," said historian Gus Anderson of an Ohio state community college.
Researchers at the Patristic Institute of San Hieronymus in Bratislava, Slovakia, discovered the letter addressed to the bishops of the Roman Province of Illyricum (east coast of the Adriatic). The letter exhorts the bishops to "steer clear of lead-based utensils as well as non-sustainable agrarian practices. For what is salvation if it is only from a bad farm?" asked Leo I.
And yet the bad science of the time comes through in the letter, which shall certainly not afflict that planned by Pope Francis: "We must balance the humors of the body, of the fields and of the soul if we are to reap abundant harvests. And be sure, O fishers of men, to tell those fishers of fish not to fish in bays dedicated to pagan demons."
"The letter looks pretty silly in this day and age when we no longer base our beliefs upon unproven theories," said Guiseppi Gordani, S.J., chief astronomer at the Vatican Academy. "Imagine basing a whole encyclical on something like that!"